Celebrating and Honoring the Profession: Monique Karlen

Social Work Month Highlight

Meet Monique Karlen (she/her/hers
4th year Part-Time MSW program, class of 2022


Monique Karlen

What led you to pursuing your MSW degree?
For the past 32 years I have been working as a visual arts instructor in the Madison Metropolitan School District. Throughout my teaching career, I have noticed a shift in student behavior and an increase in the level of trauma that students are bringing to the classroom. It is partly this understanding, which has led me to seek out a midlife career change. Since 2013 my registered therapy dog, Za, and I have been visiting residents once a week at Agrace Hospice in Madison and have made many connections with people at end of life, mostly those over the age of 75. These visits are what really solidified my desire to become a social worker in the aging and health track, with hopes to one day become a palliative care social worker.

What led you to pursuing your MSW degree? What are your favorite classes thus far in the PTP program?
Coming from an arts and humanities background, the more social science-based classes were intimidating at first and really outside my wheelhouse. In the end I learned a lot from all my classes but I really, really enjoyed both my Research Methods class with Dr. Leah Olson-McBride and SW 875–Health, Aging and Disability Policy and Services—with Dr. Patricia Egan. I appreciated the rigor of both classes and the organization and excellent presentation of material and I learned so much. My other favorite class was SW 840—Grief, Death, Loss and Life, with Carissa Hodgson. Heavy on the interventions and practical strategies, I feel that it prepared me best for my desired career in palliative care social work. As well, losing my mom while taking the class helped me deal with my personal grief.

Who inspires you in the profession of social work and why?
It has to be Brené Brown. Since first seeing her inspirational Ted Talk on vulnerability and her short on Empathy, I have devoured her books and wisdom. She is real, shares her own struggles, and makes you introspective about your own life. She also looks at issues on a more macro level, which helps us as social workers remember to connect to the greater good.

What things do you enjoy when not in school?
Hanging out with my three rescue dogs, listening to true-crime podcasts, drinking tea, riding my bike, lifting weights, and doing anything outdoors. Since I am a teacher of the arts (primarily metalsmithing), I would like to get back into making my own art again once I graduate and have more free time.

Thank you Monique for all your contributions to the social work profession and for allowing UW- Madison Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work to highlight you!

Thanks to Michelle Helmer, MSW, LGSW, Eau Claire Site Director, Part-Time MSW Program for organizing this series celebrating social workers!